Say you just moved six hours away from your old roost to a new one (with so much light! off the lake! and a weird creature that swims in it that we have yet to identify!). Say you’d recently gone a few days without shaving your legs or painting your nails (this is real talk. Let’s go with it). Say you’ve eaten way too many Thanksgiving leftovers and mini chocolates with almonds and toffee in them that your mom-in-law gifted you that you love but also curse while you run on the treadmill (read: Motivation) (also read: I ran. On a treadmill. #bignews). Say you feel like you just rolled yourself out of bed after a long winter’s vacation snooze and suddenly realized it’s Christmas in less than a month and you’ve got a looooooot of shopping to do. Say you’re kind of freaking out.
I know how you feel. And the remedy is muffins. And mayhaps a good ol’ nail-painting sesh.
Besides Christmas music and twinkle lights and hot cocoa and the sound of sleigh bells, panettone reminds me of the holidays. The sweet smell of citrus and vanilla baking in the oven puts a spring in my step. And while I’ve made and adore the yeast-based version (the photos, ooph), this quick bread variation is not only easier, fluffier and more moist, it’s also cuter and very giftable — high priorities in my book. And for those of us in precarious oh-my-goodness-what-gifts-do-I-buy-everyone-this-year situations, it’s also a relief. Just one muffin wrapped up in a bag with a bow and a note on top and yada, yada, yada, Merry Christmas. May you and your tummy be filled with joy this holiday season. Or something like that.
Among the many wonders that make up this recipe is the fact that it’s highly adaptable. You can put in just about any dried fruit that you fancy, from pineapple to peaches, and you can substitute apple juice or rum (!!) for the orange juice for a different flavor. You can also swap out the lemon zest for orange zest and top the muffins with coarse sanding sugar instead of regular for a more festive look. And while I love baking these muffins in these adorable paper mini panettone molds, you can also bake them in a regular muffin tin. And if that’s not enough incentive to get you in the gift-making mood, these take less than an hour to bake up and eat — which means you can easily make a double batch and save some for yourself. It’s a surefire way to get into the holiday spirit.
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yields: 12 muffins
1 1/2 cups diced dried fruit (I used raisins, cranberries, apples, plums, apricots and peaches)
1/4 cup orange juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup milk
In a medium bowl, combine dried fruit and orange juice. Cover and let sit in refrigerator overnight. The next morning, remove from fridge and let come to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin (or 12 paper mini panettone molds set on a baking sheet) and set aside.
In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter, oil and sugar until smooth. Add eggs and stir to combine. Stir in lemon zest and vanilla.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together baking powder, salt and flour. Stir into butter mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Fold in fruit mixture.
Spoon batter evenly into prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle tops with sugar, if desired. Bake muffins 18-20 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes in muffin tin, then remove from tin and cool completely on a cooling rack (if using panettone molds, remove muffins from baking sheet to cool completely).
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